By: Rebecca Cerio
Our weekly linkpost, bringing you interesting and informative links on science policy issues buzzing about the internet.
Seems like a good week for some space policy.
Jay Barbree, the only journalist to have covered every manned US space mission, has penned an excellent set of opinion pieces on how space policy should be on the presidential nominees’ to-do list. The five-part series is up on the NBC News website (scroll to the bottom for links to parts 2-5).
Barbree examines, among other issues, one that has hounded space policy since its inception: sending anything into space, let alone rocketing to another planet or even further, is an incredibly expensive prospect. However, the fruits of the space program are not merely pictures of Martian rocks and some bragging rights. Barbree points out:
America’s space program has developed technologies that are being used in devices to detect blocked coronary arteries to prevent heart attacks, as well as in digital systems for medical imaging, laser angioplasty, programmable pacemakers, implantable heart aids, automatic insulin pumps, voice-controlled wheelchairs and invisible braces. In transportation, spaceflight has brought us better brakes, safer bridges and electric cars. In public safety, the benefits from NASA include radiation hazard detectors, emergency response robots, pen-sized personal alarm systems, life-saving air tanks for firemen and emergency rescuers. Let’s not forget the hundreds of computer technology benefits found in smartphones and other devices. The spin-offs extend to recreational gear, food packaging, environmental and resource management, industrial productivity and manufacturing technology.
And, as Rose Eveleth points out on the Smithsonian blog, the cost of the Curiosity mission (~$2.5 billion) is roughly a fifth of what is being spent on the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.
I’m just as concerned about where my tax money goes as the next citizen, but I have to admit… I’m spending much more time watching Curiosity’s Twitter feed for the latest pictures from Mars than I am counting medals. Opportunity’s beautiful Martian panorama photos from earlier in the year are getting (much-deserved) replay as well.
What do you think? How high on the national agenda should US space policy be? Sound off in the comments!